Austrian literature: Robert Musil

Robert Musil (1880 – 1942)

Robert Musil was born in Klagenfurt, capital of Carinthia. After completing his studies and working for sometime in Berlin he settled in Vienna and became a journalist and writer. During World War I he was busy as a war correspondent at the beginning of World War II he managed to emigrate to Switzerland as he feared for his Jewish wife.

His first novel ‘Die Verwirrungen des Zögling Törleß‘ (Confusions of Young Torless) was published in 1906 and hauntingly describes the experiences of a sensitive boy in an exclusive military school with all its repression and brutallity. It was immensely popular. His later publications did not rise to the same popularity.

His major work ‘Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften‘ (Man without qualities), an impressive piece of prose which was published in three installments, the third as posthumous fragment. ‘Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften’ is concerned with the downfall of an imagined empire called ‘Kakanien’ which rather resembles the Habsburg monarchy and symbolizes world oder itself. The prose is dark and haunting, ironic and utopian at the same time.
‘Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften’ equals Döblin’s ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ or Thomas Mann’s ‘Der Zauberberg’ in innovation and ambition and spinns the story over 2000 pages.

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